TIFF Preview - Keepers of the Water

with some material from a media release

Keepers of the Water
Directed by Ayelen Liberona
Produced by Joseph Johnson Cami

nominated for Best Emerging Filmmaker & the Public Award at TIFF 2010
TIFF Talent Lab, Emerging Filmmaker Award
Screening & Award Winners announced

September 16, 7:30pm
Bell Lightbox Filmmakers Lounge (134 Peter Street)
note * By invitation only

“We should have a voice, our voice should be heard.”

Twelve year old Robyn is just one of the reasoned and articulate children - all of them between 9 and 12 - who are indeed heard in this 4 minute documentary film. These are the kids of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta who live directly downstream from the world's largest and most environmentally toxic industrial project, the Alberta Tar Sands. I'd argue that the very reason their voices should be heard is the unwavering and unselfconscious directness of their point of view.

"It's a fun place to play." The young narrators are shot talking in their own environment - a play area with monkey bars, the camera follows as they ramble across the snowy fields. For them, the story is one that has
personal impact. "I made dried fish before," remembers a young girl. She describes cutting them open, something that now can bring unexpected results. "They find fish with funny things because the lake is
polluted," she says. "Our water turns yellow. Your fingernails and your toenails go yellow.. orange." They describe the funny red bumps they get from swimming in the water. They remember a time when their parents and grandparents could drink directly from the lake - no more. To a child, the issue is simple, and everyday.

The land in all its frozen wintry beauty is more than a backdrop, it's a kind of character in the film, animated by the energetic preteens as they play and wander across the flatlands. The short film ends with a shot of the smokestacks of Syncrude.

Here's a link with some recent information on the Tar Sands Project

Some other fun facts:
  • Native populations are experiencing increased respiratory diseases, rare cancers and cardiovascular problems, suspected to be caused by toxic substances that have leaked downstream from Tar Sands production.
  • About 90% of the water used to process the Tar Sands ends up in highly toxic tailing ponds that line the Athabasca River and threaten the health of the whole river basin, Canada's largest fresh water resource.
  • Canada has no national water policy and one of the worst records of pollution enforcement of any industrial nation.

The kids have gone on to form a protest group.

Director Ayelen Liberona (pictured) and producer Joseph Johnson Cami previously collaborated on their feature-documentary, A Grain of Sand (2009), which has already helped save from privatization the famed Moyenne Island - worth 50 million dollars. Moyenne Island now enjoys a National Park status in the Seychelles.